Saturday, December 17, 2016

I got promoted!

It took a few years, but I finally made E-6, petty officer 1st class. My family was there for the pinning ceremony, and my boss Chief Larry Baruwa and my dad Glenn Slaughter pinned the new rank on. 

From left, Aunt Ruth, Uncle Gilbert, mama Lois, Dad, stepmom Kathy. Great bunch!
Dad practicing before the ceremony. I'm trying to throw him off with a look.
Pretty much the entire building was there. All branches represented.

Don't drop the crows! There's 100 people watching.

Chief and Dadeo inspect their work. Good job!

Captain Norr is the top dog at DMA. He spoke at the ceremony told me to be ready to lead.

Uncle Gilbert is a Navy veteran. He's helping me upgrade the rank on my NSU jacket.

Next stop, chief petty officer!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Graduation Day

Class 050-16, our newest batch of MCs, is about to graduate. They've been here for about six months but the pain is almost over. 

These young squidlets have been hard at work, producing print and broadcast news and features stories, recorded still and video photography, and created graphic designs, all using the Adobe software suite.

I'll see you in the fleet! (Your grad video kicked ass, by the way.)

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Saturday, November 5, 2016

Sea Trials

The final test for MC students is sea trials, a 4-day event simulating life on a ship. They're hit with a nonstop barrage of jobs, designed to keep them  on their toes.

Seaman Janine Jones is required to produce a feature story in a very short period of time. MC2 Gordon and I are being interviewed about life as a secdef videographer 

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Group shot!

Class 050-16 is doing their end-of-year group shot. It's all done without any help from the instructors. This can feel like herding cats. Seriously though, taking a group shot is an important skill to have out in the fleet. You WILL be asked to shoot large groups of VIP visitors and entire departments.

The number one thing to remember is that you, the photographer, are in control. Don't be afraid to give the group orders, no matter what rank they are. Be polite, but firm.

It may feel awkward to shout commands, but if you don't, you could end up with a crappy photograph with no chance for a do over.

Looking good MCs!

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

MC Perspective: Photo stories

Photo story by Seaman Janine Jones.

Students at the Defense Information School who make it to photo class usually rejoice, because they SURVIVED WRITING!!! News and feature writing give problems to the most people, but photo can be scary for some, and not for the reason you'd expect.

APPROACH ANXIETY: The fear of speaking to strangers. In order to complete these assigned photo stories, students must find live human subjects to shoot. Typically they're dropped off in Annapolis, DC or Baltimore, and have one day to complete the assignment.

This is terrifying for introverts.

Seaman Recruit Janine Jones is definitely not an introvert. She took the time to send in some field footage of the students working, along with the finished product.

Seaman Recruit Perla Peters at El Toro Bravo. Photo by SN Janine Jones.

JONES: The first attempt by Peters was at an ice cream place that had their freezers break causing the ice cream to melt, so they weren't going to be open that day. Thankfully the owner also owned a lobster roll place that she was able to shoot at.

Peters gets caption info at El Toro Bravo. Photo by SN Janine Jones.
It's not enough to take photos of people from afar. Students need to speak with them to get crucial background information. This info is placed in the photo story, so the audience understands what they're looking at.

It's important to go back to the client and give them a copy of the photo story. Many students don't do this, and it makes it harder for future photographers to do stories on the business.

JONES: A lot of the businesses we approached had bad experiences previously with other classes shooting there.
Seaman Kevin Leitner at Kilwin's in Annapolis. Photo by SN Janine Jones.
JONES: We are required to have ten different images that tell a story to create a layout with two short paragraphs.

Seaman Kevin Leitner at Kilwin's in Annapolis. Photo by SN Janine Jones.
I AM YOUR EYES: The trick is to capture the subject in his or her natural environment, without getting in the way.

SR Kyle Moore putting in work at Capital Teas in Annapolis. Photo by SN Janine Jones. 
A good smile can go a long way to winning over nervous subjects.

SR Kyle Moore's photo story

SN Kevin Leitner's photo story

Great job everyone and thanks to SN Jones for the information!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Us versus the camera

We're all learning the beast of a camera called F800. The manual for this thing is 250 pages. So far, the camera is winning.

I'm posting more often at the I Am Your Eyes Facebook page right now, so stop by!

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Riding in style

I'm the videographer for the Secretary of Defense as he visits US troops this week. Lots of plane and helo rides and lots of pressure. Wish me luck! 

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day: An MC remembers Chief Ryan Bell

Rendering honors at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

Yesterday my buddy MC2 Alex Tidd contacted me and asked if I'd run a story he wrote for Memorial Day. If you remember, Tidd was the guy who wrote that great post about his time in Japan, providing humanitarian assistance after the reactor meltdown. He has a very personal experience to share about the loss of one of our own.

The Importance of Memorial Day
by Alexander Tidd, Public Affairs Intern

            I remember my first time seeing the USS Arizona Memorial, a stark white but simple edifice perched on the sparkling cerulean waters of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It was oddly beautiful, in its tragic way. Fellow Sailors in their equally brilliant dress whites lined the flight deck of my aircraft carrier as we ceremoniously rendered honors to the sunken mausoleum. We did so because, as is often the case in life, there is much more to the USS Arizona Memorial than what appears on the surface.

Rendering honors at the USS Arizona Memorial.
            Beneath the memorial is the USS Arizona itself, the battleship famously caught on film as its superstructure exploded in flames and was torn asunder, the victim of a direct hit to its massive ammunition stores. Nearly 1,200 of the 1,500-man crew were killed by the explosion or trapped within in the steel confines as it sank, taking just 12 minutes to disappear forever. The majority of their bodies remain there, buried at sea in the remains of the ship they called home.

I did my best to capture this somber moment in photos, 
juxtaposing the naval present with its past.

            It is with a heavy heart I write this, feeling deep emotions despite the generations between me and those brother Sailors lost that day. The Navy values its own to its core and they are forever honored and remembered whenever a vessel comes to port in Pearl. As my fellow crew members of USS Ronald Reagan saluted Arizona in solidarity, I did my best to capture this somber moment in photos, juxtaposing the naval present with its past. I’ve included some of my photos with this story in the hope that they help with understanding Memorial Day.

It was barely four months into my naval career when Memorial
Day would first become a personal event for me.

            Word was spread around the Navy barracks that Chief Petty Officer Ryan Bell, my instructor at DINFOS (better known as the Defense Information School in Fort Meade, Md.), had been hospitalized for a massive heart attack. Little did we know at the time that we were experiencing a real-life application of a lesson we’d only recently been taught in our training—when a servicemember passes away, they are only publicly identified 24 hours after notification of next of kin. 

So it wasn’t until the next day that we found out Chief Bell was dead at just 33 years old.
             Getting to know Chief Bell had been a profound experience for me during my first few weeks of training at DINFOS. I reported there immediately after two months of intensive training at Navy boot camp, where recruits are taught to fear as much as respect anyone wearing a khaki uniform, the common attire of chiefs and officers. But getting to know Chief Bell taught me that chiefs were people too, people who were here to nurture our growth into productive Sailors of a very proud U.S. Navy. 

Memorial display at the Defense Information School.
          Chief Bell was a muscular and youthful black man who stood tall. He was quick to show off his bright smile and had a way of making ever interaction personal. He wanted to know how we were doing, what we were doing and how he could help. Because most of all, he was a teacher. He taught us to become masters of public affairs, or as he liked to put it, “the storytellers of the Navy.” He felt he had the best job in the Navy and wanted to make sure we all felt exactly the same way.
           I was also very fortunate to know Chief Bell on a personal level. He was a big baseball fan and an even bigger fan of Barry Bonds, who I’d grown up watching smash home runs into the bleachers of Candlestick and AT&T Park. Needless to say, we had a lot to talk about.

Chief Bell was also one of the most generous people I’ve met. 

          One time, when he was serving overnight duty as our barracks babysitter, I walked by his office and saw him chowing down on a Whopper from Burger King. I jokingly asked why he hadn’t gotten me a burger too. Immediately, despite still chewing on his last bite, he thrust the burger toward me, sincerely offering to share his dinner. It might be easy to write that off as a joke but with Chief Bell, it was a genuine gesture.

A light moment with Bell during a training exercise.

 I got to know him best on the first Friday night of our holiday stand-down that winter. Most of my classmates caught flights home immediately, but I decided to save a little money and fly back to San Francisco the next day. Consequently, Chief Bell and I were pretty much the only people in the Navy barracks that night. We chatted in the duty officer’s workspace with a ballgame on in the background, sharing experiences and learning from each other. 

He didn't care that I was a seaman recruit, the lowest rank in the Navy. To Chief Bell, we were equals who both had something meaningful to contribute.

That was the last time I would see him alive. I flew home Saturday morning and wouldn't return to Maryland for two weeks. It wasn't long before word got out and I, along with other concerned Sailors, asked if we could go visit Chief Bell in the hospital. We found out the next day why our request was impossible.

After the news had sunk in, I realized I had something to offer my fellow Sailors. I went to the command master chief and told him that I was a trumpet player and would like to play Taps at Chief Bell's memorial service, if they would have them. It turned out to be one of the better decisions I've made, because if I hadn't been able to do so, they would have used a recording on a CD.

I was 21 years old when they struck the bells for Chief that day. As the final strike resonated throughout the room, I lifted my trumpet to my lips and let out the most important notes I'll ever play. The first note warbled as tears ran down my cheeks, but I found my confidence in thinking of Chief Bell and the rest came out as strong as he was. I did my duty as best I could for my fallen friend.

MC3 Alex Tidd

In my five years in the Navy, I had to play Taps for four more Sailors taken before their time. I also played for services remembering the battle of Midway, at burials-at-sea and, of course, on Memorial Day. What I want to be clear is that Memorial Day isn’t about me, it isn’t about you, it isn’t about anyone who can read this account. It’s about those Sailors trapped beneath the waters at Pearl Harbor, it’s about the Marines who died charging Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima, it’s about the Soldiers who didn’t come home from Iraq. 

It’s about Chief Petty Officer Ryan K. Bell, USN.  Memorial Day is something we carry with us because they can’t. 

Chief Ryan Bell


Friday, April 29, 2016

Get fit!

Today's the day! The Sailors are doing the biannual PT test. PAIN

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

MC perspective: Shaping squidlets

Selfie with her first class. They look...lively.

I know I've said this a bunch of times but you really have to be ready for anything with this job. MC2 Veronica Mammina is the perfect example, as she was recently handed a major direction shift.

Assigned to Defense Media Activity, where I work, Mammina only made it a few months before the Navy called on her to fill an instructor spot over at the Defense Information School.

Talk about change, she went from producing multi media content for the Navy's premiere publication, All Hands Magazine, to teaching it to recruits right out of boot camp.

MC2 talked briefly about what it's like over at DINFOS and how she got to where she is now.

The newest crop of DINFOS instructors.

MAMMINA:  I'm going the through the certification process of becoming a a Navy A-School Instructor. There are 5 functional areas in the six-month course to become a Mass Communication Specialist (MC). I teach the last functional area (Multimedia) which I am ecstatic about. It was my favorite part of A-School when I went through so talk about coming full circle.

I'm in a team of about 6 instructors. We take turns teaching basic graphics design techniques while using vector & raster based software. I.e. Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign to name a few. We also touch on Dreamweaver and AfterEffects if students express interest.

I AM YOUR EYES: Teaching that stuff would terrify me. The only things I'm good at are writing conversationally and making videos.

MAMMINA: So far, it's been a lot of fun. The course slightly changed but for the better. I shadow the other multimedia instructors to get a better understanding of what's expected of the students and follow along on the graded assignments. How would I grade their work if I've never done it right?

I taught my first class today and watching 
the light bulbs go off is seriously amazing.

Though my days are typically from 0700 until 1700, I don't even think about time. I'm constantly learning and preparing lesson plans, writing down ideas. I taught my first class today and watching the light bulbs go off is seriously amazing. I'm glad I'm here and able to do this job.

Mammina on the flight deck of  USS Boxer.

I graduated from A School in 2012, motivated to get into the fleet, make rank, get my warfare pins and get a little salt on my shoulder (life on a ship is what the Navy is all about right?). I got 2nd pick in the class and got stationed at the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) out of San Diego until November of 2015.

In my entire life I never worked as hard 
as I did on that ship during those three years. 

I experienced the maintenance/overhaul phase known as PMA, an eight-month deployment to the middle east/pacific ocean with about 2,000 embarked Marines, won Junior MC of the year in 2013 for the products I made (after one year of being on the ship) and some other awards.

The ship was an arduous duty but was very rewarding. After Boxer, I had a few choices of where I wanted to go after my sea tour and ultimately re-enlisted for 3 years for Defense Media Activity.

Mammina's going away present, drawn by MC1 Mark Logico

After a few months of loving DMA and learning about broadcasting and magazine publishing, I was offered a rare opportunity by my supervisors to fill a needed special-shore-duty billet as an instructor at DINFOS. I was nostalgic for a moment because I realized how much of an awesome experience I had as a student there, and

...I've always wanted to be a teacher 
so why now start now? 

It was hard leaving DMA, and felt kind premature, but definitely awesome to ultimately be working side-by-side with the instructors I had when I was at DINFOS 4 years ago, literally.

I AM YOUR EYES: I drove a couple of my instructors crazy...not sure I want to see them too soon.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Vietnam Memorial

We started at about 0500...we're in Washington D.C. to get a time lapse of the sunrise and video footage of the Vietnam Memorial. EJ is pulling his iPhone on the wagon while his two Nikon D4s churn through the timelapse.

I'm still trying to wake up.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

I Am Your Voice

MC2 Darien Kenney is controlling the sound for the 2017 budget announcements happening at the Pentagon. This is big time news for us and it's got a massive audience. At DMA we are streaming the event live to where it'll be used by the civilian press.

From my observations I'd say Kenney's a bit stressed.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

MC Perspective: Lose the uniform

Everyone's watching you MC1.

See that guy in the suit down there on the floor? That's MC1 Tim Godbee on C-Span. He's the personal photographer for the Secretary of Defense. Yes, this is a job we do. If you're good enough they'll ask for a 2-3 year tour, following SECDEF all over the world.

There are also MCs working for the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON), the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS).

I asked MC1 to fill us in on what he does.


What were you doing in this screenshot? What's it like?

I'm covering the Secretary of Defense speaking on the hill. It's tough fighting off civilian press, but you have to realize you're the official photographer and have to assume that if you don't get a photo of him somewhere, he was never there. 

"Your shot is the most important in the room."

You're documenting history. It's an interesting dynamic often being the lowest ranking person in rooms full of presidential appointees and flag officers, but you can't be shy. Get in and get your shot (and get used to getting kicked out of rooms).

This pretty much sums up MC1's career so far.

 How is it working in a suit?

Working in a suit changes everything because people don't know who you are, they just know you're with the boss. I've already had flag officers get out of my way and get a lot of unwarranted sirs. 

You have to find a balance between not looking crazy in your suit and having enough gear to get you through the day. Travel light but efficient. And buy them cheap because you wear them so much and do so much moving they wear out quick.

FUN FACT:  MC1 Godbee wrote my blog before he enlisted. He found me and asked me for advice. Now he outranks me. THAT'S how fast this guy has moved up. Keep killing it out there!

MC2 Pineiro is clearly in the moment, adopting an aggressive stance to get the shot.

Here's another MC doing big things. MC2 Dominique Pineiro works for the CJCS.

DEFINITION: "Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the highest-ranking military officer in the United States Armed Forces and is the principal military advisor to the President, the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense."

What's happening in this photo MC2?

I'm taking a photo of General Dunford, General Dempsey and the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman for SEAC's change of responsibility ceremony. There were about 900 people there.

Conducting an interview with Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. No big deal.

 How do you like the work?

Make no mistake about it, the work is tough, but it's one of the most rewarding and unique jobs in the entire DoD. History unfolds in front of us and we're there to capture it.  

"When I was in Iraq I took five flights in one day. 

That was a motherf*cker."

He said he's been to eleven countries already. Not bad considering total time on the job is about two months.